When a Swedish woman lost her uterus to cancer when she was in her 20s, she had lost hope that she'd bear her own children. Thanks to a uterus transplant, however, she's now a mother to a 9-month-old baby boy.
The woman had requested anonymity to protect the privacy of her son but she was more than willing to share her story, which mostly happened because her mother agreed to donate her womb. The uterus transplant the woman, now in her 30s, underwent was carried out by Dr. Mats Brannstrom, who had so far been responsible for the birth of four babies before her surgery.
"It can't be described how happy we are. It's everything that I hoped for and a little bit more," she said.
Before Brannstrom's successful surgeries, there were previous attempts for uterus transplants in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. However, those didn't result in live births.
A gynecology and obstetrics professor from the Sahlgrenska Hospital, Brannstrom started transplanting wombs as part of an experimental study. Back then, he was working with nine women and the first one to receive a transplant was the 9-month-old boy's mother. Those part of the study either had their wombs removed because of cancer or were born without one to begin with.
A year after the transplant, the new mother turned to in vitro fertilization to create embryos using her eggs and sperm from her husband. It took doctors four attempts before successfully transferring an embryo into her new womb which resulted in her pregnancy. Thankfully, there were no complications and the baby boy was delivered through cesarean section.
As a way of thanking Brannstrom, the woman and her husband used his name for their baby's middle name. The couple are considering having another child, since transplanted wombs are intended for two pregnancies. Afterwards, the womb will be removed so that the woman can cease taking rejection medications.
Brannstrom is now working with colleagues to plan more transplants, with one trial exploring using wombs from women who have recently died. They are also considering employing robotic surgery to cut surgery time.
Experts are marveling at Brannstrom's work, describing it as the biggest breakthrough for fertility medicine since IVF was developed.
Photo: Vinoth Chander | Flickr